Music: Very Desperate Indeed

The house lights dimmed and the Saturday-matinee crowd at Manhattan's Metropolitan Opera House settled down tor the second act of Tristan and Isolde. The orchestra launched into the prelude played for a minute, then stopped cold. Over a loudspeaker in the opera house—and the loudspeakers of millions of radio listeners across the U.S.—came the voice of Commentator Milton Cross: "Something has happened! The orchestra has stopped."

Commentator Cross paused, let the silence sink in for several dramatic seconds. 'I'm trying to find out what has happened," he continued, then told his listeners that there was no sign of an emergency. After...

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